the first of the three great annual festivals of the Israelites celebrated in the month Nisan (March-April, from the 14th to the 21st. (Strictly speaking the Passover only applied to the paschal supper and the feast of unleavened bread followed, which was celebrated to the 21st.) (For the corresponding dates in our month, see Jewish calendar at the end of this volume.) The following are the principal passages in the Pentateuch relating to the Passover: (Exodus 12:1-51; 13:3-10; 23:14-19; 34:18-26; Leviticus 23:4-14; Numbers 9:1-14; 28:16-25; 16:1-6) Why instituted .--This feast was instituted by God to commemorate the deliverance of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage and the sparing of their firstborn when the destroying angel smote the first-born of the Egyptians. The deliverance from Egypt was regarded as the starting-point of the Hebrew nation. The Israelites were then raised from the condition of bondmen under a foreign tyrant to that of a free people owing allegiance to no one but Jehovah. The prophet in a later age spoke of the event as a creation and a redemption of the nation. God declares himself to be "the Creator of Israel." The Exodus was thus looked upon as the birth of the nation; the Passover was its annual birthday feast. It was the yearly memorial of the dedication of the people to him who had saved their first-born from the destroyer, in order that they might be made holy to himself. First celebration of the Passover .--On the tenth day of the month, the head of each family was to select from the flock either a lamb or a kid, a male of the first year, without blemish. If his family was too small to eat the whole of the lamb, he was permitted to invite his nearest neighbor to join the party. On the fourteenth day of the month he was to kill his lamb, while the sun was setting. He was then to take blood in a basin and with a sprig of hyssop to sprinkle it on the two side-posts and the lintel of the door of the house. The lamb was then thoroughly roasted, whole. It was expressly forbidden that it should be boiled, or that a bone of it should be broken. Unleavened bread and bitter herbs were to be eaten with the flesh. No male who was uncircumcised was to join the company. Each one was to have his loins girt, to hold a staff in his hand, and to have shoes on his feet. He was to eat in haste, and it would seem that he was to stand during the meal. The number of the party was to be calculated as nearly as possible, so that all the flesh of the lamb might be eaten; but if any portion of it happened to remain, it was to be burned in the morning. No morsel of it was to be carried out of the house. The lambs were selected, on the fourteenth they were slain and the blood sprinkled, and in the following evening, after the fifteenth day of the had commenced the first paschal meal was eaten. At midnight the firstborn of the Egyptians were smitten. The king and his people were now urgent that the Israelites should start immediately, and readily bestowed on them supplies for the journey. In such haste did the Israelites depart, on that very day, (Numbers 33:3) that they packed up their kneading troughs containing the dough prepared for the morrow's provisions, which was not yet leavened. Observance of the Passover in later times .--As the original institution of the Passover in Egypt preceded the establishment of the priesthood and the regulation of the service of the tabernacle. It necessarily fell short in several particulars of the observance of the festival according to the fully-developed ceremonial law. The head of the family slew the lamb in his own house, not in the holy place; the blood was sprinkled on the doorway, not on the altar. But when the law was perfected, certain particulars were altered in order to assimilate the Passover to the accustomed order of religious service. In the twelfth and thirteenth chapters of Exodus there are not only distinct references to the observance of the festival in future ages (e.g.) (Exodus 12:2,14,17,24-27,42; 13:2,5,8-10) but there are several injunctions which were evidently not intended for the first Passover, and which indeed could not possibly have been observed. Besides the private family festival, there were public and national sacrifices offered each of the seven days of unleavened bread. (Numbers 28:19) On the second day also the first-fruits of the barley harvest were offered in the temple. (Leviticus 23:10) In the latter notices of the festival in the books of the law there are particulars added which appear as modifications of the original institution. (Leviticus 23:10-14; Numbers 28:16-25; 16:1-6) Hence it is not without reason that the Jewish writers have laid great stress on the distinction between "the Egyptian Passover" and "the perpetual Passover." Mode and order of the paschal meal .--All work except that belonging to a few trades connected with daily life was suspended for some hours before the evening of the 14th Nisan. It was not lawful to eat any ordinary food after midday. No male was admitted to the table unless he was circumcised, even if he were of the seed of Israel. (Exodus 12:48) It was customary for the number of a party to be not less than ten. When the meal was prepared, the family was placed round the table, the paterfamilias taking a place of honor, probably somewhat raised above the rest. When the party was arranged the first cup of wine was filled, and a blessing was asked by the head of the family on the feast, as well as a special, one on the cup. The bitter herbs were then placed on the table, and a portion of them eaten, either with Or without the sauce. The unleavened bread was handed round next and afterward the lamb was placed on the table in front of the head of the family. The paschal lamb could be legally slain and the blood and fat offered only in the national sanctuary. (16:2) Before the lamb was eaten the second cup of wine was filled, and the son, in accordance with (Exodus 12:26) asked his father the meaning of the feast. In reply, an account was given of the sufferings of the Israelites in Egypt and of their deliverance, with a particular explanation of (26:5) and the first part of the Hallel (a contraction from Hallelujah), Psal 113, 114, was sung. This being gone through, the lamb was carved and eaten. The third cup of wine was poured out and drunk, and soon afterward the fourth. The second part of the Hallel, Psal 115 to 118 was then sung. A fifth wine-cup appears to have been occasionally produced, But perhaps only in later times. What was termed the greater Hallel, Psal 120 to 138 was sung on such occasions. The Israelites who lived in the country appear to have been accommodated at the feast by the inhabitants of Jerusalem in their houses, so far its there was room for them. (Matthew 26:18; Luke 22:10-12) Those who could not be received into the city encamped without the walls in tents as the pilgrims now do at Mecca. The Passover as a type .--The Passover was not only commemorative but also typical. "The deliverance which it commemorated was a type of the great salvation it foretold."--No other shadow of things to come contained in the law can vie with the festival of the Passover in expressiveness and completeness. (1) The paschal lamb must of course be regarded as the leading feature in the ceremonial of the festival. The lamb slain typified Christ the "Lamb of God." slain for the sins of the world. Christ "our Passover is sacrificed for us." (1 Corinthians 5:7) According to the divine purpose, the true Lamb of God was slain at nearly the same time as "the Lord's Passover" at the same season of the year; and at the same time of the day as the daily sacrifice at the temple, the crucifixion beginning at the hour of the morning sacrifice and ending at the hour of the evening sacrifice. That the lamb was to be roasted and not boiled has been supposed to commemorate the haste of the departure of the Israelites. It is not difficult to determine the reason of the command "not a bone of him shall be broken." The lamb was to be a symbol of unity--the unity of the family, the unity of the nation, the unity of God with his people whom he had taken into covenant with himself. (2) The unleavened bread ranks next in importance to the paschal lamb. We are warranted in concluding that unleavened bread had a peculiar sacrificial character, according to the law. It seems more reasonable to accept St, Paul's reference to the subject, (1 Corinthians 5:6-8) as furnishing the true meaning of the symbol. Fermentation is decomposition, a dissolution of unity. The pure dry biscuit would be an apt emblem of unchanged duration, and, in its freedom from foreign mixture, of purity also. (3) The offering of the omer or first sheaf of the harvest, (Leviticus 23:10-14) signified deliverance from winter the bondage of Egypt being well considered as a winter in the history of the nation. (4) The consecration of the first-fruits, the firstborn of the soil, is an easy type of the consecration of the first born of the Israelites, and of our own best selves, to God. Further than this (1) the Passover is a type of deliverance from the slavery of sin. (2) It is the passing over of the doom we deserve for your sins, because the blood of Christ has been applied to us by faith. (3) The sprinkling of the blood upon the door-posts was a symbol of open confession of our allegiance and love. (4) The Passover was useless unless eaten; so we live upon the Lord Jesus Christ. (5) It was eaten with bitter herbs, as we must eat our passover with the bitter herbs of repentance and confession, which yet, like the bitter herbs of the Passover, are a fitting and natural accompaniment. (6) As the Israelites ate the Passover all prepared for the journey, so do we with a readiness and desire to enter the active service of Christ, and to go on the journey toward heaven.--ED.)
Click the button below to continue.
Three easy steps to start your free trial subscription to Bible Gateway Plus.